How I was able to open up to people about my mental health at university

By Filipa Godinho Duarte a 3rd year BSc (Hons) Psychology with Criminology NTU student

The topic of mental health was always one that I tried to avoid, I felt like discussing it with people would make it far worse since, once I said it out loud it would make it true, and unavoidably turn it into something serious that I was not yet ready to deal with. As a teenager I had already experienced panic attacks and depression, and I felt that the intensity of my feelings wasn’t normal and that I ought to smile and act like the people you see on the street or the friends you hang out with. I would occupy my time with my studies and hobbies, often pursuing goals just for the sake of being focussed on something else rather than my mental health.

I believed that coming to university was going to be the turning point, it was going to miraculously erase all the negative emotions that I was having; that once I moved to Nottingham my depression and anxiety would have been cured. The magic of starting my first year at university did take my mind off things: living in a new city, meeting new people, engaging with lectures. However, it wasn’t long until I started struggling with my mental health. I was at an all-time low, with barely any motivation to even get out of bed, let alone to do homework, participate in lectures, or even go out with friends. I couldn’t find the root of the problem, of why I was so unmotivated, nor how to fix it, and it made me feel like I was stranded on an island that wasn’t even on the map, where no one could get to me, and where no one could come help me. I was stuck and felt like I had nowhere to go.

It was the thought that no one was coming to help me that made me not ask for help in the first place. I assumed I was lost and “doomed” from the start, but how could people come and help me if I didn’t ask for it? Surely someone that is literally stranded on an island would at least try to be rescued? If my cinema knowledge is correct, maybe they would get some rocks to try and spell out “help” or “SOS” in the sand?

So why wasn’t I asking for help? Looking back, I was afraid of being “diagnosed”, afraid of being looked at differently by my peers, afraid of being perceived as “weak”, afraid of what it would mean for myself to come forward and admit I was struggling. My head would be spinning with the number of thoughts crossing through my mind, but then I thought back to a time when I was happy (which at that point felt like ages ago) and I wanted to feel that again. I felt like if I am able to experience such high lows, surely, I can experience the high highs, so that became my goal, to feel happiness again, and it outweighed all the fears and doubts I had within me, because I knew there was more to life than what I was feeling in that moment.

I asked for help, went online to Student Support Services at NTU, and began the journey to pull me out of that “island”. The comfort I felt when I first talked about my mental health issues with someone else was, at the very least, life-changing, not in a way that “cured” me, but in a way that changed my perspective on my own feelings, I didn’t feel alone anymore, a burden had been lifted off me, and the journey to find that happiness again felt a lot more closer to the end, knowing I was doing it with someone else, even if just for a couple of steps of the way.

As I’m writing this, I feel happy to be able to share my experience with anyone and everyone, knowing that not even two years ago I would’ve burst into tears thinking about it. Now, most days I feel happy but that doesn’t mean that I’m “cured”, and I’m aware that there will be days where I’ll feel sad and anxious again. However, now I have the tools to deal with it and take control over my own life.

Talking about what frightens and scares you, is the first step to take away the control it has over you. Don’t suffer in silence, share your emotions, share your pain and you’ll see how liberating it can be to just say it out loud to someone else. You don’t have to be on that island forever, just reach out, there’s plenty of people ready to come help you 🙂

For help, advice and resources whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s